Gel Set, Fire Heads, Rabit, “Night Of The Living Dead,” and more events of note in Madison this week.
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services.
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 16
Darla Courtney and Portia Danis’ new documentary Take The Stage delves into the work of Girls Rock Camp Madison, one of a growing number of programs across the country and the world that give young girls the opportunity to learn an instrument, write songs, collaborate, perform for an audience at real venues, and record their music in professional studios. As more and more people pull back the curtain on the music industry’s systemic sexism, such programs are doing proactive, affirmative work to turn music into a force that empowers women. It may be cute to see little kids ham it up on stage, but what they’re getting out of the experience is important on both a personal and a societal level. In Madison, Girls Rock Camp involves a number of local musicians as instructors, and participants perform at venues including the High Noon Saloon. Courtney and Danis follow the experiences of the participants, who range in age from 8 to 18, and put it in the broader context of the need to transform the boys’ club. The film gets its local premiere at this screening. —Scott Gordon
This final entry in UW Cinematheque’s fall “Premiere Showcase” comes from first-time director Shawn Convey (who worked as an assistant camera operator on Making A Murderer). Among Wolves is an astutely observed complement to the Nepal-focused White Sun, which screens the prior evening as part of MMoCA’s Spotlight Cinema series. While Deepak Rauniyar’s narrative feature chronicles a partisan soldier’s familial discord, Convey instead utilizes the documentary format to explore Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political and social strife in the wake of their civil war (1992-95), with special attention paid to the mountainous community of Livno. While Livno has struggled to meet the needs of its denizens, former paramilitary leader Lija has stepped forward to raise funds for local charities and secure supplies for remote hospitals. He’s done so as benevolent leader of the Wolves, an ever-growing motorcycle club whose members see themselves as a uniting force, actively undoing all those unfriendly and instigating biker stereotypes. In this way, Among Wolves shares a kinship with Debra Granik’s moving documentary Stray Dog (2014), an American cross-country tour of the struggles and triumphs of Vietnam vet and biker Ronnie Hall. Here, Convey and writer-producer Kevin Ripp opt for less of a character study to develop an environmental and ethical commentary on a series of branching issues in southeastern Europe. At the therapeutic core is the Wolves’ mission to protect the majestic wild horses that are commonly disregarded by the natives and are now at-risk due to poaching and increasingly harsh conditions/climate change. This screening, co-presented by UW-Madison’s IRIS and CREECA, will feature a rare in-person introduction and Q&A with both Convey and Ripp. —Grant Phipps
Whenever a film attempts to cross too many genres and please too many people, it generally falls flat on its face. Peter Manoogian’s 1986 lemon Eliminators is absolutely no exception. Set in South America, the film finds a scientist, a ninja, a fucking riverboat captain, a robot, and something called a “mandroid”—yes, mandroid—teaming up to battle an evil cyborg scientist. As a bonus, all of the crude special effects and awkwardly shot action sequences do a lot to make Eliminators appear about 10 years older than it actually is. —Joel Shanahan
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 17
The existence of Russian Ark (2002) as an unbroken 93-minute take through the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg seems like something of a mythic achievement or miracle of cinema. And while a brief synopsis of the historical fantasy would be incomplete without acknowledging its approach, director Alexander Sokurov has sidestepped any gimmicky promotion to create his own timeless work of art. Every nook radiates love and appreciation, as if his Sokurov sees the Russian art museum as a construct and symbol of the magnanimity of life. Historical figures from Peter the First, Catherine the Great, Nicholas the Second, Alexander Pushkin, to royal officers coexist on the same plane as various modern sightseers and Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky. Officially, the film’s patient tour is guided by the wide-eyed first-person lens of an unnamed narrator, who has awakened or perhaps fallen into slumber and found himself outside the museum doors with eighteenth century guests arriving by carriage. As his inner inquiries are externalized, a romantic French Marquis (based on de Custine) with a case of wanderlust, serendipitously manifests to reciprocate. The marquis’ waltzing, awestruck movements also seem to coordinate the film’s methodical rhythm and alluringly smooth camera tracking, inviting the audience to glimpse at the interaction of modernity and antiquity. It’s not only a unique and edifying consideration of the relationship between periods of history on a psychological level that assuredly influenced Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours (2012) but also an elegiac, eternal dance in the real, moving time of film (24 frames per second). This recently restored DCP presentation will also feature a post-film discussion with Maria Belodubrovskaya, Assistant Professor of Film in UW-Madison’s Department of Communication Arts, and author of a new text, Not According To Plan: Filmmaking Under Stalin. —Grant Phipps
Milwaukee’s Fox Face play ruthless, expressive punk on their debut album, Spoil + Destroy, whose release they’ll celebrate at this show. Upon hearing the album, one picks up an array of standout styles from sinister, post-punk guitar riffs to demanding vocals that range from snarls to shrieks to cacophonous interludes between periods of straight-ahead punk. Spoil + Destroy covers a lot of ground, from wound up irritability to bleeding, brooding rumination. These stylistic shifts throughout Spoil + Destroy seem to naturally align with the stormy emotional ground and raw, fiery frustration evident in their playing and their lyrics. Fox Face cut the shit when tackling feminism and politics, with lyrics full of animosity, cheeky impudence, and enigmatic witchiness. They play here with Madison’s No Hoax, who play blisteringly brazen punk, as well as Cool Building—a new supergroup of three locals who can be seen hollerin’, janglin’, and thrashin’ around town. —Emili Earhart
There are several influential elements to keep in mind when listening to Les Fleurs Du Mal, the new album from Rabit, moniker of Houston producer Eric Burton. Poet Charles Baudelaire, whose own work gave Burton the name of the record, is an obvious one. Current 93’s David Tibet, with whom Burton communicated while in the process of creating Les Fleurs Du Mal, as well as spaciously disorienting, industrial outfit Coil, come to mind in the album’s sonic and mystic elements. Rabit’s work also shows up in affiliation with Chino Amobi and Elysia Crampton—two artists who, like Rabit, are paving the way for post-genre electronic music. Burton also collaborated with Björk on her latest release, Utopia. But Les Fleurs Du Mal stands on its own as an incredibly personal creation, perhaps removed in some way from outside influences. There is much that deserves to be unfolded in the record, though it is hard to say how much material is there for a listener to parse. Much like Baudelaire’s poetry, Les Fleurs Du Mal embraces a sense of decadence, both beautiful and grotesque—often at the forefront, sometimes hidden in esoteric references. —Emili Earhart
Jeff Garlin once boasted in an interview that if he felt like it, he could become the world’s greatest stand-up comedian. That this boast was aired in the context of Garlin announcing an obviously short-lived retirement from stand-up telegraphs a few qualities that him worth watching as a performer. But the big one is Garlin’s commitment to honesty (if also considerable self-regard?) and his perspective, even if it reflects a passing whim. Born in Chicago and later coming up through Second City’s troupes, Garlin became heavily steeped in that theater’s philosophies that if you react truthfully and honor your scene partner’s moves, the comedy takes care of itself. Also, during this time, he was roommates with Conan O’Brien and officemates with Stephen Colbert—two bits of trivia that say a lot about where Garlin’s sensibilities lay. Although likely more synonymous in passing to fans who know him from HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm (back this fall after a five-year hiatus), Garlin has been a workhorse writer, producer, and director since the ’90s. This year alone, Garlin released a Netflix comedy-mystery movie (Handsome), starred in another season of ABC’s The Goldbergs, and did another season of Curb, and voice-acted in the upcoming Toy Story 4. Still, as Handsome and Curb indicate, Garlin is at his best when he’s working without any pretense of a formula. His stand-up is a sort of high-wire act where, as in Curb, Garlin comes in with maybe a back-pocket loose outline and goes from there. He’s always affable and charmingly loud, but it’s tough to tell you what to expect during this two-day, four-show stint at the Comedy Club on State. Perhaps the best way to let you prepare is to sum up Bill Burr’s appearance on Garlin’s now-defunct podcast, By The Way, in which Burr interrogated Garlin on what possessed him to once devote an entire set to the pitfalls of hot-air ballooning. —David Wolinsky
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 18
Say what you will about Cut Copy’s festival-circuit meltdown of synth-pop nostalgia and over-polished tech-house functionality—the Melbourne, Australia-based outfit has dropped some formidable jams, like “Hearts On Fire” and “Lights & Music,” from 2008’s In Ghost Colours. But the prime lure for this gig is a rare Wisconsin appearance from Dutch (Los Angeles-based) machine jammer Palmbomen II. On the project’s eponymous 2015 LP for Rvng Intl, mastermind Kai Hugo delivered an X-Files-themed collection of raw, heady acid house that’s colored in with lush, digital synth voices, drum machines run through swirling filters and reverb, and an overall tropical warmth that wraps around the listener’s skull. Hugo is currently prepping to release a follow-up in Memories Of Cindy, which is due in January of 2018 and collects the first two volumes of an ongoing EP series. Look out for a taste of that record in his live set here. —Joel Shanahan
With the freshly released Body Copy, Gel Set’s first full-length since relocating to Los Angeles from Chicago, mastermind and synth-maniac Laura Callier offers the most sonically evolved version yet of her long-running, bizarro synth-pop project. The highlight track “Odds” is a solid example of what makes Body Copy such an enveloping listen. With a backdrop of subtle, stabby synth bass and sharp drum machine programming, Callier’s playfully eerie synth designs weave in and out of the stereo field, as her heavily processed and breathy vocals lurk above. Body Copy certainly evokes the primal sonic charms of Chris & Cosey, but there’s also a deep presence of something very rewarding and so purely Gel Set that Callier has been pushing toward for the last several years. I’m also extremely stoked to catch a set from moody pop experimentalist from Spa Moans, who hails from Chicago. —Joel Shanahan
Just in time for her show in Madison, NYC-via-Korea producer and vocalist Yaeji has released her second EP of 2017, unceremoniously titled EP2. It’s a short project, clocking in at just five tracks, but it’s also one that puts Yaeji’s adventurous blend of house music, pop, and rap on full display. “Feelings Change” and “Raingurl,” the first two tracks, contrast nicely. The former is a hazy blend of woozy synths and Yaeji’s own modulated vocals, sung in her customary blend of English and Korean, but is slower and more austere than anything she’s released before. The transition to “raingurl” is brusque but welcomely so. Over a house beat, Yaeji raps clever but simple lines like “Mother Russia in my cup / and my glasses fogging up / oh yeah hey dog hey wassup.” The hook is also completely infectious. “Drink I’m Sippin on” and “After That” are more similar to what Yaeji offered on her previous self-titled EP—half-rapped, half-sung vocals over detached synths and percussion. Neither are the best instrumentals she’s produced, but her vocals maintain the intrigue and momentum of the first two tracks. She concludes, however, with “Passionfruit”—a glorious remix of Drake’s hit that is better than the original. In her reconstruction, Yaeji replaces Drake’s vocals, synths and snare-heavy percussion with her own modulated vocals and instrument parts that feel synthetic and futuristic. Her songwriting prowess shows here, by letting the song breathe and letting the inherent danciness live a little, where the original version of the song felt constrained for radio-play and streaming efficiency. Yaeji displays a complete lack of concern with genre and a fearless determination to blend as many influences as possible—two things that make any upcoming artist worth rooting for. —Henry Solo
If you haven’t quite gotten your horror fix this autumn season, UW Cinematheque is honoring the great George A. Romero with a new 4K DCP restoration of his archetypal zombie apocalypse film Night Of The Living Dead (1968). In the half-century since its independent release, the film’s grainy and grim social commentary about the Cold War and the Vietnam War, race relations, and fear of invasion and disease have permeated popular culture like few other works of fiction, as evidenced by the substantive success of everything from the Resident Evil (Biohazard) games to The Walking Dead comic/TV series. While the central claustrophobic scenario here is remarkably simple, Romero threads his story of survival amongst strangers in a rural Pennsylvania farmhouse with a riveting, relentless dread. He also shies away from the notion of a singular hero to broadly regard each character’s heightened response to societal deterioration in a group that includes a stage actress, a teenage couple, and a suburban family. When levelheaded outsider Ben (Duane Jones) takes precautionary measures to protect the group against the “marauding ghouls” and vigilante death squads, he is met with resistance by obstinate patriarch Harry Cooper (Karl Hardman), further muddying a clear and effective course of action. The indecisive antagonism inside the farmhouse is carefully balanced by a surprisingly literary narrative unearthing outside, as radio and news broadcasts periodically sound to expound the escalating nationwide epidemic of random murder and cannibalism. In Night Of The Living Dead‘s fever pitch of a denouement, it reaches the daring heights of Hitchcock (The Birds) and Polanski (Repulsion)’s psychological terrors. —Grant Phipps
Ripe from tour, local garage-thrashers Fire Heads are back in town behind their new, self-titled LP. The album finds the four-piece’s work getting tighter and more accessible than its 2014 debut Scroggz Manor (released under the band’s previous name, Fire Retarded), putting the band’s unhinged rawness at the forefront. Between a cleaner production style and just a hint of maturation, this sophomore release boasts a little more nuance both in songwriting and performance, but it’s far from tame. Madison’s Vanishing Kids will play here for the last time until spring, serving up glittery goth vibes and heavy, acidic, dream-doom soaked in psychedelia. Milwaukee’s Calliope play classic, riff-heavy psychedelic rock matched with interstellar-overdriven synth-y spaciness. Madison’s lovably noisy grunge outfit Dharma Dogs will be giving a one-time-only reunion performance here as well. Read more about that in our story about Dharma Dogs this week. —Emili Earhart
Chicago-based musician Matt Mehlan writes beautifully convoluted songs for the band Skeletons, which played Tone Madison‘s GateSound series in 2016. His new solo album, The Mehlans, builds on that body of work with wistful vocal melodies that wrap and drift around deceptively bold song structures, and arrangements that are bristly and busy but never lapse into overloaded chamber-rock cliches. The album also makes some extra space for atmospheres and experimentation, as on the intro to “Brooklyn Girls.” Minneapolis five-piece IE craft rumbling, glacial drone instrumentals with a mix of synthesis and acoustic instrumentation on the new album Ark. Madison duo And Illusions uses bass, sinister synth arpeggios, mutated vocals, and a sprinkle of literary reading in unpredictable and psych-blasted performances. Madison-based bassist Rob Lundberg (of projects including Jobs and Nestle) will open here with a short solo set. This show is presented by Tone Madison at Maiahaus Project Space, a converted church in downtown Madison. The address will be released closer to the show date. Tickets are available now and there is a discount for Tone Madison Patreon supporters. —Scott Gordon
MONDAY NOVEMBER 20
Noname is the stage name of rapper and Chicago native Fatimah Nyeema Warner. She’s been involved in slam poetry and hip-hop since 2010, and started to gain some traction with feature verses on songs by fellow Chicagoans Chance The Rapper, Saba, and Mick Jenkins. In 2016, Noname self-released her widely acclaimed mixtape Telefone. This intricate and soulful collection is part coming of age story, part healing, and deeply focused on life as a black woman in Chicago. Warner’s hip-hop has a strong narrative bent, with spoken-word delivery that centers around open-ended conversations in the form of phone calls in the mixtape. Her work feels nostalgic in the conversational approach, but her delivery and production are soothing and glowing. Noname’s work is tethered to many of the issues that face Chicago, such as police brutality, poverty, and gentrification. She also recently appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert with some stripped-down versions of her songs. Opening up this show is Los Angeles based rapper Arima Ederra, whose newest album, Temporary Fixes, offers a soulful and glitchy approach to R&B. —John McCracken
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